According to the preliminary reports of a recent study conducted by oil and fortified foods company Saffola, India’s Net generation is obese. This report concludes that 70% of urban Indians, primarily between the ages of 30 and 39, are obese, because they are on a diet of packaged foods, hardly ever exercise and are constantly glued to the digital media. The Net generation spends a lot of time wired to computer Wi-Fi systems and the World Wide Web. This adds fuel to the fires of an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle and in all probability has made these young people obese prematurely. Instant messaging, Facebook, Xbox and PlayStation have no doubt contributed to a plethora of easy and quick ways to post status messages, thoughts, photos, network and even exercise, but these have also catalysed sedentary living. They have triggered a new convenience mindset, and promoted behaviour patterns like erratic sleep and wake times and night-eating syndrome (NES).
All this marks the birth of a new lifestyle for a generation driven by the makers of smartphones and Internet technology. More and more urban Indians are reaching out for 2-minute foods, burgers, packaged soups, chips, Tetra Pak beverages, instant cake and idli mixes (all fattening and unhealthy food with too much sodium), and putting off exercise. The reason for putting off workouts vary from “it is boring”, “takes too long to change into sports wear”, “the gym is never free”, “the park is too far from my house to go for a walk”, etc.
All night, online: It’s addictive and leads to set behaviour patterns.
As a nutrition and fitness professional, I find this trend disturbing for several reasons.
When mindsets are altered at young, impressionable ages, they are extremely resistant to change. For instance, once the palate gets used to the new unhealthy flavours of packaged food, getting it back on track to enjoy foods that are cooked at home becomes an arduous, if not impossible, task.
Also Read | Madhuri Ruia’s earlier articles
Similarly, this instant messaging and networking on websites such as Facebook is addictive and comes with set behaviour patterns such as staying up at night chatting. Or watching the latest sitcom into the wee hours in an awkward slouched posture. People who are online till late in the night end up eating a lot of junk food, often mindlessly. Tucking away bars of chocolate, candy and cake in bed while watching the latest download is also easy because no one is watching. Such behaviour patterns affect metabolism because there is little time for repair and rest. Lack of sleep also increases daytime hunger, and can cause heartburn and indigestion. Awkward postures can cause back pain and stress andfurther reduce motivation for regular exercise. One thing quickly leads to the other, and before you know it a 30-year-old is faced with the daunting task of battling a stubborn metabolism that promotes obesity and its three corollaries—diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
It is about time for the Net generation to take stock of its health and prevent further damage
First, it is important for them to return immediately to old-fashioned nutrition. Eating a high-fibre diet like dals, vegetables and bajra cooked at home in very little oil, enjoying almonds and sesame seeds with fruits, some skimmed-milk paneer (cottage cheese) and fish that is grilled, eating at regular 4-hour intervals and exercising energetically six days a week, sleeping at least 7 hours a day between 10pm and 6am, continues to remain the golden standard to remain in the best of health. The time spent on social networking sites must be adjusted in accordance with this golden standard.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org